According to nearby residents, a proposed change to pollution regulation could damage Ohio River water quality
In Pittsburgh, Penn., compliance with regulations restricting pollutants discharged into the Ohio River by coal-fired power plants, oil and gas companies, and other industries would be made voluntary under a proposal by the Ohio River Valley Water and Sanitation Commission.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the commission, known as ORSANCO, held its first public hearing on that proposal Monday, April 1 in Green Tree, and of the 17 people offering comments, none said that was a good idea.
Many of those 17 also said the proposed change is driven by the shale gas industry and plastics manufacturers that want reduced regulations on wastewater discharges into the river, according to the Gazette.
Robert Reed, of Bridgeport, Ohio, said he has lived near the Ohio since he was born in 1950 and watched it rebound from a “cesspool” under ORSANCO’s watch.
“I am heartened by the comeback of aquatic life in the river, but those gains will be washed away by the industrial development,” Reed said, specifically citing wastewater discharges from the shale gas industry. “Those industry lobbyists have too much influence over this process.”
Nora Johnson, of Pittsburgh, said the Ohio River is the drinking water source for 5 million people and making water quality standards “discretionary” will hurt water quality, according to the Gazette.
“Ohio already has a separate set of standards for discharges into the Ohio River, so the commission needs to make it clear there’s a need for standards that are protective of water quality,” Johnson told the Gazette.
ORSANCO Chairman Ron Potesta of West Virginia said the commission was established in 1948, before the federal Clean Water Act of 1972, as a multi-state cooperative to improve and protect water quality in the Ohio River Basin.
According to the Gazette, in its seven decades of it existence, ORSANCO has set standards for discharges of heavy metals and hazardous chemicals from coal-burning power plants and other industries along its 981-mile length from Pittsburgh to where it joins the Mississippi River.
“Now the issue is, if we have the Clean Water Act and the states have their own standards, how much is ORSANCO needed?” Potesta told the Gazette.
According to the Gazette, he said a review of the commission’s pollution control standards began four years ago and its initial proposal in July 2018 was to eliminate them completely. However, after a public outcry, the commission pulled that back and proposed allowing states “discretion” in meeting them, according to Potesta.